(READ) [Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori da Cimabue insino a' tempi nostri]
The Impostor yAn artist lives and acuires fame through his works but with the passing of time which consumes everything these works the first then the second and the third fade away After Plutarch s Lives Vasari s Lives of the Artists is likely the most iconic collection of biographies of famous men He published two editions of the book the first in 1550 the second in 1568 and both found success in Vasari s lifetime and have continued to sell well ever since In life Vasari was a typical Renaissance man achieving fame for his paintings he decorated the Palazzo Vecchio and his architecture he was responsible for the loggia of the Uffizi in addition to his work as a biographer Granted his paintings are not highly regarded nowadays though many are pleasing enough to my eyes but this posthumous verdict did not prevent him from making a fine living And whenou write the first book of art history in the history of art the rest hardly matters The edition I own is highly abridged as are nearly all popular versions since the original contains dozens upon dozens of painters sculptors and architects most of whom the casual reader does not know of or care for This explains why most of the Lives are so short Indeed fans of any particular Renaissance artist are liable to be disappointed by Vasari s treatment He runs through Sandro Botticelli in all of ten pages for example barely pausing to mention the Birth of Venus Indeed many of these biographies are hardly biographies at all just extended catalogues of works This is certainly useful for the art historian though Vasari made many mistakes but it does not make for electrifying readingThe modern psychoanalyzing mode of artistic biographies was of course entirely alien to Vasari and he seems to regard the artist s personality as a source of gossip but not of insight This does not prevent him from including many good stories Like Plutarch himself Vasari is rich in anecdote and as in Plutarch half of them are probably false Fact or fiction however a good story is preferable to a dry fact We hear of Cimabue agreeing to take on Giotto as a pupil after seeing the De jongen, de mol, de vos en het paard young boy scratching on a stone or of Paolo Uccello staying up long nights to work on problems of perspective Whether these stories help us to understand the paintings is doubtful but they do help to bring alive this amazing time in historyVasari begins the book with a sketch of the history of art as he understood it His opinion is not a masterpiece of subtlety In essence the Greeks and Romans understood that art begins by copying nature and so produced excellent works then art fell into barbarism Vasari coined the term gothic to describe medieval art in which the ancient knowledge was lost and artists had no knowledge of proper techniue finally the painter Giotto came and revived the arts inaugurating a process that culminated in the works of Michelangelo I must say that this view though little than naked prejudice is at least refreshing in Vasari s conviction that art was ascending and culminating in his own epoch Most of us are disposed to think it is declining It is striking that Michelangelo s historic importance was understood even during his own lifetime This was not an age of poor Van Goghs working in lonely shacks The great artists were recognized and rewarded when they lived andounger artists were seen to have surpassed their masters novel concepts in our romantic ageThe Life of Michelangelo whom Vasari knew and worshipped is by far the longest and forms the core of this collection Indeed all the other lives can be seen as mere leadup to the great Florentine who fulfils all the promise of former ages Vasari here turns from chronicler to hagiographer praising Michelangelo with every breath You might even say that Vasari turns into uite the Boswell including various bits of Michelangelo s conversation and also several letters written to him by the great artist as if to prove that Michelangelo really was his friend All this makes for good reading even if the worshipful tone is grating The second longest Life in my collection is that of another Florentine Vasari was a fierce patriot of his home city Filippo Brunelleschi This life is perhaps even better than that of Michelangelo as Vasari charts the suabbles and drama behind the scenes of Brunelleschi s domeVasari "s style is easygoing and almost conversational and the pages go by uickly He strikes me " style is easygoing and almost conversational and the pages go by uickly He strikes me a man full of shallow opinions but of a generous mind and a steady judgment This book full of errors lacking any historical context and greatly out of step with modern opinion could hardly be read as a standalone volume on Renaissance painting But every book on the subject borrows knowingly or unknowingly from Vasari who has given bread to scholars and delight to readers for generations with this charming bookI have endeavored not only to record what the artists have done but to distinguish between the good the better and the best and to note with some care the methods manners styles behavior and ideas of the painters and sculptors I have tried as well as I know how to help people who cannot find out for themselves to understand the sources and origins of various styles and the reasons for the improvement or decline of the arts at various times and among different people But what inflicted incomparably greater damage and loss on the arts than the things we have mentioned Constantine s move to Byzantium invasions etc was the fervent enthusiasm of the new Christian religion After long and bloody combat Christianity aided by a host of miracles and the burning sincerity of its adherents defeated and wiped out the old faith of the pagans Then with great fervour and diligence it strove to cast out and utterly destroy every last possible occasion of sin and in doing so it ruined or demolished all the marvellous statues besides the other sculptures the pictures mosaics and ornaments representing the false pagan gods and as well as
this it destroyed countless memorials and inscriptions left in honour of illustrious persons who had been it destroyed countless memorials and inscriptions left in honour of illustrious persons who had been by the genius of the ancient world in statues and other public adornments Moreover in order to construct churches for their own services the Christians destroyed the sacred temples of the pagan idols To embellish and and heighten the original magnificence of St Peter s they despoiled of its stone columns the mausoleum of Hadrian today called Castel Sant Angelo and they treated in the same way many #Buildings Whose Ruins Still #whose ruins still These things were done by the Christians not out of hatred for the arts but in order to humiliate and overthrow the pagan gods Nevertheless their tremendous zeal was responsible for inflicting severe damage on the practice of the arts which then fell into total confusion From Vasari s Preface pp 36 7Vasari may have taken his cue from Petrarch who wrote in his poem Africa written in 1338 a Sybernetics : Musculation stratgique year after he first visited Rome addressing the poem itself forou if Un nol River Falls (Suspense Crime) you should long outlive me as my soul hopes and wishes there is perhaps a better age in store this slumber of forgetfulness will not last forever After the darkness has been dispelled our grandsons will be able to walk back into the pure radiance of the pastA century after Petrarch Leon Battista Alberti the pioneer of Renaissance art theory wrote in On Painting De pictura along similar lines as Vasari would do another century later I used to marvel and at the same time to grieve that so many excellent and superior arts and sciences from our most vigorous antiue past could now seem lacking and almost wholly lost We know from remaining works and through references to them that they were once widespread Painters sculptors architects musicians geometricians rhetoricians seers and similar noble and amazing intellects are very rarely found today and there are few to praise them It must be admitted that it was less difficult for the Ancients because they had models to imitate and from which they could learn to come to a knowledge of those supreme arts which today are most difficult for us Our fame ought to be much gr. Packed with facts attributions and entertaining anecdotes about his contemporaries Vasari's collection of biographical accounts also presents a highly influential theory of the development of Renaissance artBeginning with Cimabue and Giotto who represent the infancy of art Vasari considers the period ofouthful vigour shaped by Donatello Brunel. .
Eater then if we discover unheard of and never before seen arts and sciences without teachers or without any model whatsoever Who could ever be hard or envious enough to fail to praise Pippo the architect on seeing here such a large structure rising above the skies ample to cover with its shadow all the Tuscan people and constructed without the aid of centering or great uantity of wood if I judge rightly it was probably unknown and unthought of among the Ancients But there will be other places Filippo to tell of The Complete El your fame of the virtues of our Donato Donatello and of the others who are most pleasing to me by their deeds Alberti On Painting Prologue addressed to Filippo Brunelleschi 1435Vasari thought of the achievements in art and architecture of the ancient Greeks and Romans as a Golden Age and that of the Medieval period which followed as a period of decline He hated Gothic art and architecture that s also why he chose the term Gothic it was about the worst term he could think of and he used it as a synonym for barbaric With the gradual rediscovery of the ancient works of art those which were produced in Corinth Athens Rome and other famous cities before the time of Constantine he sees a new beginning helped by some subtle influence in the very air of Italy the new generations started to purge their minds of the grossness of the past so successfully that in 1250 the heaven took pity on the talented men who were being born in Tuscany Cimabue et al and led them back to the pristine forms Before then during theears after Rome was sacked and devastadted and swept by fire men had been able to see the remains of arches and colossi statues pillars and carved columns but until the period we are discussing they had no idea how to use or profit from this fine work p 45 The Lives consists of three parts Vasari writes in his Preface to Part Two I have divided the artists into three sections or shall we say periods each with its own recognizably distinct character running from the time of the rebirth of the arts up to our own times The first part includes Cimabue and Giotto artists that mark a new beginning opening the way for the better work which followed Then in the second period there was clearly a considerable improvement in invention and execution with design better style and a careful finish Ghiberti Brunelleschi Donatello Fra Angelico Alberti Filippo Lippi Botticelli etc This is followed by the third period when art has achieved everything possible in the imitation of nature and has progressed so far that is thas reason to fear slipping back than to expect ever to make further advances pp 84 5 The third part includes all the giants of Renaissance art Leonardo Giorgione Correggio Raphael Michelangelo and Titian have been selected for this edition The Life of Michelangelo is the longest by far and Vasari was proud of being able to call himself his friend Michelangelo wasn t all that happy about everything Vasari wrote Possibly he considered Vasari most of all a useful contact between himself and Duke Cosimo de Medici in Florence while he was working in Rome and later he asked his friend Ascanio Condivi to write about his life and to correct some of the things Vasari had got wrong I haven t read Condivi s Vita et but I enjoyed Vasari s account in spite of Michelangelo s objections to it In fact I found even his gushing over Michelangelo both amusing and understandable and by then I had gotten used to Vasari s style and knew his strengths and weaknesses so I had no problem bearing with him Anyway Vasari later revised his account of Michelangelo based on that of Condivi and he provides a wealth of information The revised and enlarged edition of the Lives was published in 1568 and it is selections from this later edition that has been translated here George Bull writes in his Introduction The letters of introduction to Cosimo for the 1550 and 1568 editions of the Lives echo in the obseuiousness other letters addressed by artists and writers to the Medici notably Machiavelli s letter to Cosimo s father Lorenzo at the head of The Prince the humble posture adopted in these dedications reflected perhaps standard modes of address as much as genuine servility More interesting is the manner in which both Machiavelli and Vasari interpreted political and art history respectively in terms of inevitable progression and decline and et paradoxically suggested that the decline could be of inevitable progression and decline and Φυσιογνωμία yet paradoxically suggested that the decline could be by genius by the virt of a political leader or artist endowed by nature with great ability and taught to emulate the perfection reached in the past This affirmation of virt has been called the fundamental theme of the Lives p 15 In their entirety the Lives may fairly be called a work of art On one great canvas Vasari painted a harmonious and glowing composition which sustains with ease the task of conveying the revolutionary nature of of what happened in Italian art between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries He lifted the story of Tuscan art to the plane of the heroic stretching back to the uasi legendary figures of Cimabue and Giotto and forward to the inspired Michelangelo p 16 As Bull also writes it can get a bit boring at times butou keep reading because when he really likes a piece of art Vasari s enthusiasm often gives his style a lift and makes him write with flair And there are endless examples of that in this book He s also emphatically Florence centric which gets kind of entertaining especially as the book progresses And Vasari provides plenty of amusing anecdotes and gossip so that this in a way makes up for the occasional parts where the writing just drags along There s eg the story of Giotto s O and of how Brunelleschi to illustrate how his dome could be self supporting made an egg stand upright on a slab of marble by hitting one end of the egg hard against it and later how he feigned illness to expose the fact that Lorenzo Ghiberti who received the same pay was not competent to take over the work on the dome in his absence Stories and anecdotes ou may have read before but this is where they are first toldThere s also this great anecdote about Michelangelo When he saw the David in place at the entrance to the Palazzo della Signoria Piero Soderini was delighted but while Michelangelo was retouching it he remarked that he though the nose was too thick Michelangelo noticing that Gonfalonier was standing beneath the Giant and that from where he was he could not see the figure properly to satisfy him climbed on the scaffolding by the shoulders seized
hold of a chisel in his left hand together wit My undergraduate degree is in Artof a chisel in his left hand together wit My undergraduate degree is in Art so I ve read my fair share of Art History books It was interesting to me the way he presented artists which was very different than any Art History book I ve ever read Most Modern Art Historians tell ou why the artist is important and what he or she did for art but I ve never heard it said "that this artist s work was so beautiful that ou wonder if he is human "this artist s work was so beautiful that ou wonder if he is human if his hand was touched by God That s how Vasari presents the artists He puts a lot of his own opinion in the biography of these artists and their works I really enjoyed reading his opinion because by the third artist I realized that sometimes Vasari s opinion of what was great art was completely different than my own opinions It made me think that maybe it s because so much has happened in art through the centuries that time and modernism may have changed the way we look at art It was very interesting I even read all of the biography of Michalangelo even though he wasn t my favorite artist to begin with Vasari loved him so much that I think I like Michaelangelo better now I also re discovered some artists such as Antonio da Corregio and Andrea Mantegna who I forgot about though I do not know why Men of genius sometimes accomplish most when they work the least for they are thinking out inventions and forming in their minds the perfect idea that they subseuently express with their hands Giorgio Vasari The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters Sculptors and ArchitectsI normally do. Leschi Ghiberti and Masaccio before discussing the mature period of perfection dominated by the titanic figures of Leonardo Raphael and MichelangeloThis specially commissioned translation contains thirty six of the most important lives as well as an introduction and explanatory notesAbout the SeriesFor over 100 ears Oxford World's Classics has.